Wellsville The scoreboard certainly didn't show it, but the 25-0 football whipping De Soto High handed Wellsville on Friday night was much closer than it looked.
Wellsville (1-3) turned the ball over on its first five possessions -- four times inside its own 40 -- and basically handed De Soto (4-0) its 19 first-half points. A fumbled snap on a punt attempt on the Eagles' first possession of the second half gave the Wildcats the ball on the one-yard line, setting up their lone second-half score.
De Soto outgained Wellsville 250-176 in total offense, but 50 of those yards came in the final minutes against a heavily overworked WHS defense.
It's easy to see why Wellsville coach Bill Oshel said his Eagles pretty much gave the game to De Soto.
"I'm not one to be bragging or anything like that, but I think they're lucky," Oshel said. "I think they had a scoring drive of five (yards), five, 20 and 25, something like that. I think if they look at numbers, they're going to feel pretty lucky because I think we beat them up and down the field.
"To be honest with you, it's probably a 7-0 ballgame one way or the other. I think that's just the way it is. We've got to cut down our penalties, we've got to cut down our mistakes in order for us to do anything."
The mistakes were killer for the Eagles, however, while De Soto punished them for every slip-up. Wildcats quarterback Neil Erisman capped their first scoring drive with a 10-yard run that put DHS ahead 7-0.
He hit Brandon Hurt with a 17-yard touchdown pass that pushed the lead to 13-0, and then Erisman tacked on a 21-yard scoring run just before halftime that bumped the lead to 19-0. All three scores were the direct result of Wellsville turnovers, and if the lead wasn't out of reach by then, Leif Goleman's one-yard score early in the third quarter effectively ended it.
"We want to hold the ball," De Soto coach Brad Scott said. "We want to take the wind out of their sails and keep it for minutes at a time."
The wind also was out of Wellsville's lungs by halftime. The defense was on the field for more than two-thirds of the first half -- an exhausting stretch at any level.
"We had to just keep fighting and fighting and fighting," Oshel said. "It made us really tired. We just have to find a way to not do that to ourselves, and we're going to be all right."
An injury to WHS quarterback Cody Gardner midway through the third quarter didn't make things any easier, but the Eagles didn't quit. They took care of the ball the rest of the game, but couldn't muster any points against De Soto's gritty defense.
"They're a good football team. We were just lucky to get a lot of turnovers early, and that helped get a lot of momentum going," Scott said.